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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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When most drivers purchase a car insurance policy, they believe that it will pay to repair or replace their damaged vehicle as needed. Now that your car has had a tree limb or even an entire tree fall on it, you may be ready to file a claim and take advantage of your insurance benefits.
However, not all types of auto insurance coverage will cover this type of damaging event. By learning more about the type of auto coverage you currently have, you can determine if you should take the next step and file a claim. Compare rates with our comparison tool above and make sure you aren’t overpaying for your auto coverage.
Determining What Type of Coverage You Have
Most drivers have liability auto insurance, and this is because this type of coverage is required by state law in many areas.
Liability coverage makes it easier for you to take financial responsibility for damages you cause to others when driving, and this is because this type of insurance pays out benefits for their vehicle repairs and other related expenses. This type of coverage will not pay for damage to your own vehicle caused by the tree.
Some drivers have upgraded to a more inclusive policy. Collision coverage may even be required by some auto lenders, and it pays for your own car repair bills if you are involved in a car accident. However, it will not pay for any repair or replacement expenses that are caused by natural events or bad weather.
A comprehensive auto insurance policy is typically the most inclusive type of coverage that drivers can buy, and it pays for damages to your vehicle caused by a wider range of events.
This type of policy will usually include vehicle repairs or a full replacement because of tree-related damage. However, each case will need to be reviewed by your insurance adjuster, and filing a claim is the best step you can take to initiate this review process.
Understanding the Claims Process
When you initiate a claim with your car insurance company, you are formally telling them that your vehicle has been damaged and that you would like to use your insurance benefits to pay for repairs.
If you have never filed a claim against your insurance policy in the past, you may understandably feel intimidated by this process. However, rest assured that it is easier than it sounds.
How to File a Claim
In fact, most drivers can file a claim over the phone with a short phone conversation. You simply call your insurer’s customer service or claims department phone number and provide a representative with details about the event. In some cases, you can even complete this process online at any time of day that is convenient for you.
It is wise to take pictures of the tree on your car so that you can document the cause of the damage, and many insurance providers will want to see any photos that you have taken when you file the claim.
Paying Your Deductible
If your claim is approved, the insurance company will provide you with details about how to get it repaired. They will typically pay the auto service center directly, but they will not pay the full amount of your repair expenses.
You will need to pay the deductible amount to the repair center, and all remaining expenses should be paid for by your insurance company. A common deductible amount is $500, but this amount can vary.
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Disputing the Result of Your Claim
Many car insurance claims are settled without hassle, and you may have your car repaired within a week or two after filing your claim depending on the extent of the damage and how quickly the repair center can work. However, some claims are not approved as requested, and others may only offer limited benefits to you that are not sufficient to repair the car fully.
This may happen if you do not have the right type of coverage to pay for this type of event or if your vehicle’s replacement value is very low.
You should spend time learning more about why your claim was not processed to your satisfaction and read through your insurance policy’s fine print to ensure that the claim denial was justified.
If it was not, you can speak with your state’s insurance department about efforts they can take to assist you with finding a resolution to the matter. Some drivers also seek arbitration through an independent third party, and others may hire an attorney to pursue legal action against their insurance company.
Updating Your Car Insurance Coverage
Regardless of whether your insurance claim is processed to your satisfaction or not, this tree damage event serves as a great reminder that you should review and update your current auto coverage. You may consider updating your coverage type or limits to meet your current needs, or you may add optional coverage for:
- Rental car reimbursement
- Towing service
- Personal property damage
- Roadside assistance
In addition, you may look for more affordable rates or for a provider that has an easier claims process. When you are searching for a new provider, review the providers’ financial strength and customer reviews online to make an informed decision.
How to Find the Best Rates
While all drivers should be focused on setting up a car insurance policy that is fully protective and beneficial in a wide range of potential situations, you also may want to find an affordable policy that does not stress your budget. Shopping for competitive rates is a great way to find the best deal possible, and you can also take these steps to lower your rate:
- Opt for a higher insurance deductible
- Maximize the benefit of auto insurance discounts
- Move to a zip code with more affordable insurance rates
- Trade in your car for a more affordable vehicle to insure
- Improve your credit rating
- Improve your driving record
Discovering that a tree branch has fallen on your car can be stressful, but many people can file an insurance claim to get the repair process started. Now is a great time to learn more about your existing coverage and to update your car insurance policy as needed to ensure maximum benefits in the future. Don’t miss out on the best rate for you! Just enter your zip code in our FREE comparison tool below now!